Changes made by Round Lake Area Unit District 116 to help boost student academic achievement are receiving an early thumbs-up from administrators.
Common textbooks, frequent student monitoring and a push for more parental involvement are part of the restructuring initiative that was implemented in the current academic year.
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Keely Roberts, District 116's executive director of teaching and learning, told district elected officials that she's seen positive early trends in reading test results for kindergarten through eighth grade students. However, she acknowledged the restructuring may take three to five years before significant academic improvement is made.
"Across the district, we have some work to do," Roberts told officials during the update. "We know we have some work to do, but that's exactly what we're focused on."
Consistently poor performance on the state's annual report card and failure to meet federal No Child Left Behind guidelines drove District 116's need to revamp how education is delivered starting with the 2013-14 academic season, officials said.
Phil Georgia, principal of W.J. Murphy Elementary School for grades one through five in Round Lake, said students have new language arts materials that replaced 13-year-old textbooks.
In addition, the English as a New Language delivery model is focused to ensure pupils receive an appropriate amount of support.
Georgia said it's not just the students who have benefitted from the restructuring effort so far.
"This year, when we started school, there was so much excitement," he told District 116 board members. "Our teachers knew what they were going to be doing. They knew the plan we were going to put in place. And they were ready. Our theme for the year was 'dive in.' There's a lot of new stuff and we're just going to dive in and make it happen."
Roberts said another district initiative is an informational "Parent University." She said the first of three sessions for the current academic year was along the lines of a "state of the schools" meeting.
At Round Lake High School, Principal Donn Mendoza said students should know the importance of standardized achievement tests before they enter his building and must be part of the restructuring process. Students take the ACT college entrance test and the Prairie State Achievement Exam in their junior year, the results of which show up on the annual state report card.
"I believe that in order to change behavior, we need to change thinking," Mendoza said. "And in order to change thinking, you cannot overcommunicate. I think I once heard that in order to change somebody's thinking, you need to communicate something to them seven times."